Friday, May 30, 2008

DOCUMENTS DISCUSSED HERE GET YOU JAILED 2.0: Or set up for deportation

If you download "the al Qaeda manual," never share it, even if you're a scholar-in-training studying terrorism. Especially if you and the recipient go by the wrong kind of names.

In mid-May, University of Nottingham master's student Rizwaan Sabir apparently sent the electronic manual to a school clerk, Hicham Yezza, for printing. This triggered an investigation in which counter-terror police arrested the two and held them for six days, after which Sabir was released without charge. However, Yezza was held on an immigration violation and is in custody, threatened with deportation to Algeria.

Reg readers know now that reading the wrong stuff in the UK gets you on the fast track to prison for one possession of something likely to be of use to potential terrorists. Technically, get-out-of-jail-free cards have been issued for journalists and academics, both of which have a well-defined public interest in writing about and analyzing such documents. However, under the current climate it's inevitable that those with good reasons for possessing jihadi electronic documents will find themselves in anti-terror cross-hairs.

Read the rest of the story at el Reg today here.

Your friendly neighborhood GlobalSecurity.Org Senior Fellow has written about two other cases in which UK anti-terror legislation has effectively criminalized the possession of document discussed and illustrated frequently on this side. If you have the wrong name, have them on your hard disk, and the UK police come calling, you have significant legal exposure.

The paradox in this current story is that the student and clerk at Nottingham University obtained the Manchester manual, also known as the "al Qaeda manual" from a US government site.

In the US, the Manchester manual went well beyond its use as an illustration of terror writings in legal cases years ago. It is now used to make political statement on the nature of the enemy, usually taken out of context or selectively edited, for the sake of argument.

"How just thinking about terrorism became illegal" addressed this counter-terror tactic last year, also at the Reg, here. It is one in which anyone who downloads a document deemed likely to be of use to potential terrorists stands at risk, if taken into criminal court, of suffering a sentence which carries with it ten years in prison. In other words, what's on your hard drive could mean hard time.

In the related but more recent case of Samina Malik, the Lyrical Terrorist, DD wrote "Documents discussed here get you jailed.

"Is this what it is going to be like?" asks John Ozimek at the Reg in another piece on the University of Nottingham incident. "When simple possession of a proscribed document will be enough to see you clapped in irons and whisked down to the local police station?"

"About two weeks ago (May 16), Nottingham University campus was agog as police arrived to interview former student Hicham Yezza. After some ten years' study, first as undergraduate, then graduate, Hicham was a non-academic member of staff in one of the University departments.

"His mistake was to agree to help Rizwaan Sabir, a friend in the Politics faculty, who needed a document downloaded from the web and printed off. This was all part of legitimate study: the document itself was on the Politics Faculty reading list. Unfortunately, the document in question also happened to be an al-Qaeda Training Manual..."

Read this entire story here.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

BETTER HOMES AND MISSILES MAGAZINE: Postdate 1970



The cover of a 1970 issue of Ordnance magazine, again salvaged from garage sales in Pennsyltucky and Maryland, shows an ICBM lifting out of Vandenberg in California. You could call the publication the Better Homes and Missiles of its time. (The photo was so beloved it was used regularly. In a 1969 issue of the magazine, it showed up rendered in an advertisement for Minuteman.)

As DD has said before, the editors of Ordnance could not have imagined their country as one where a popular show on cable, "Futureweapons," exists only to show promotional videos of cluster bombs, computerized mines and fanatics getting erections over the US Air Force's skill at carpet bombing.

Perhaps the editors would think you were joking if you could send a letter back in time, one telling them there is no longer any serious mainstream opposition to anything the military does at the behest of the government.

On page 259, in an article on the worth of the C-5 Galaxy military transport plane, a contributor plaintively asks: "Does something cost too much when not having it costs more?"

Possessing the largest military infrastructure in world history, one which exceeds in spending what all other countries in the world COMBINED invest, the thoughts of the directors and contributors of Ordnance look old and utterly out of it.

In 2008 there is no real debate on the appropriateness of the size of defense and security force structure fielded by the United States. The mainstream media actively cheerleads for war, allows itself to be a frictionless conduit for whatever fuglemen from the administration and Pentagon have to say.

The vast majority of Americans have no stake, influence or say in the wars their leadership chooses to wage. In no longer having to serve, as they did when this 1970 issue of Ordnance was published, they abandoned responsibility, mostly to have the unimpeded freedom to buy on credit whatever lavish things they wish to buy whenever they wish to buy them. And while there were always articles in Ordnance warning that the country would not give the US military a total blank check, thirty eight years later there are almost no weapons too nonsensical or pointless to fund.

But in November-December of 1970, Ordnance was concerned with the Soviet Union.

"While the United States has been basing its strategic planning on the theory that if we limit our first-strike capability, the Soviets will do likewise, the Reds have continued their build-up," wrote Mark Schneider in "Red Missiles and SALT."



"According to [Defense Secretary Melvin] Laird, the 12,000 - 15,000-pound payload of the SS-9 Scarp could carry three 5-megaton warheads ... The SS-9 is a problem in the SALT talks because it is so powerful and so clearly a first-strike weapon."

Schneider worried that the US had no way of inducing or persuading the Soviet Union to limit its first strike missile force without engaging in an acceleration of the arms race, which is precisely what happened.

In 2008, Islamic terrorists are not in possession of a force of SS-9 Scarps. And they do not possess civilization-ending multi-megaton thermonuclear weapons. Yet the American government tortures its prisoners, just in case they know something. As a country, we have lost all perspective.

In 1970, Richard Nixon ordered American troops in Cambodia, sparking riots. And William Calley was put on trial for the massacre at My Lai.

Riots and civil unrest made Ordnance magazine uneasy, too. In the magazine's book review section, "The Riot Makers: The Technology of Social Demolition" by Eugene H. Methvin, is recommended.

"The riot era has come home to America," wrote Ken Kent. "Riot makers are not amateurs, and our modern riots are not the result of spontaneous events."

"Modern riots are on the ascendancy with no indication that they will fade away," asserted Kent. "Each of us should learn more about riot-making and about what action must be taken, by whom, to keep riots from happening. This book covers its timely subject in a most constructive way. Read it for a better understanding of one of today's most serious problems."

Hanson Baldwin's "Strategy for Tomorrow" is reviewed by W. K. Ghormley.

"There are political and military voices in the land today that will agree with the author enthusiastically, and there are many others who will be violently opposed to his reasoning and conclusions," wrote Ghormley.

"Most of the time his viewpoint is on a collision course with that of the popular news media, the growing vocal minorities who advocate 'peace at any price,' and with positions being taken by many important leaders in Congress ... The author's specific advice can be summarized: We must keep our powder dry if the United States is to survive the dangerous last third of the twentieth century without ecoming 'Red or dead.'"

"This book was written under the auspices of the Center for Strategic and International Studies ..." notes the reviewer.

Some things, however, appear to have not changed at all.


Heavy machine gun ad, circa 1970. Recommended for use against Communists and, maybe, anti-war students riot-makers.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

MAD DOG BOOGIE: A young DD on YouTube

Let's go back to 1990. Dick Destiny & the Highway Kings are playing at the 4G's, a seamy bar located in a slum of the washed-up eastern Pennsylvania steel town, Bethlehem. God, Guts, Guns and Glory was what the moniker supposedly stood for -- named by an owner who was an ex-commando. A martial arts magazine with his menacing picture on its cover hung over the bar, lending some credence to the claim. In truth, the owner was an agreeable fellow who gamely attempted for years to make the place into a refuge for musicians whom no one else in a very musically conservative town would tolerate.

And, on balance, the 4G's mostly succeeded in an environment where it was viewed only as a vague annoyance. Through the end of the Eighties and the first half of the next decade, the 4G's played host to most, if not all, of the independent underground rock that was worth listening to along the Allentown-Bethlehem-Easton axis. Sixties-style garage band revival, death metal, straightforward rock-and-roll, art damage -- if someone performed it in the Valley, they could find a sympathetic ear (or ears) at the G's.

The 4G's was also a place where beer was served only in one brand -- and exclusively in sixteen-ounce cans. No draft. Girls and assorted sissies could, perhaps, purchase a feminine drink known as a Grasshopper.

So wouldn't you know it, a memento from that period in time pops up on YouTube, where all old home videotapes come out of the closet.



In 1999 the 4G's was destroyed by fire. The city of Bethlehem bulldozed the ruin, happy to be rid of the place. The south side of town was on its way up and today is a yuppie exurban place of high value, part of the city's great renewal. It may be hard to recall it as a genuine rat-infested slum where people sometimes went to die.

But this video sure helps! The Highway Kings often played to houses full of handfuls of testy scumbags. And twenty years ago the 4G's was the crown jewel of the bunch.


Proprietor of Bona Fide Records in Red Lion, PA, sez DD vid is all right!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

CLASS WAR: Pantsuits and prole caps

"This is to all the stupid Democrats (including myself) who always believed that every vote counts in an election," writes a bitter blue-collar, patriotic, hard-working voter to the Schuylkill County paper-of-record, The Pottsville Republican.

"Why should the Democrats vote when it’s the state delegates who decides who gets on the ballot? Why waste people’s time (taking time off from work, etc.) to vote your choice for the nominee of your choice? I have been a Democrat most of my life, but that’s about to change to either register Republican or not vote at all.

"In West Virginia, Hillary Clinton won by over 60 percent and they had 28 delegate votes. However, Clinton got 20 delegate votes and Obama got eight delegate votes. Why? Since Clinton won, why did she not get all 28 delegate votes?"

See here.

It's unfair, thinks the Democrat in Schuylkill County, a shire which went for Clinton. So unfair, it's time to threaten to join the Republican Party, a party that's been pretty bad to workers in the county for the last few decades.

However, DD calls the action similar to what he did when regularly rebuked while growing up in the county. When told a prescribed mode of action was good for me and I promptly did the opposite, I was told I was cutting off my nose despite my face. (Or, "You’re cutting off your nose to spite your face.")

It's simple human nature to give the middle-finger to the party or powers belittling you. And if that means setting fire to your own shed, then so be it.

So do it, guy! Quit and join the other side.

The "Democrat" in rural Pennsylvania, and many other places with similar demographics, threaten to leave the party daily, so much that it's become a shtick. If you watch Lou Dobbs in the late afternoon on CNN, there's a constant stream of alleged defectors, outraged and betrayed that the party isn't likely to imprison and deport all illegal aliens. (Coincidentally, this makes southern California a regular target, a region subverting the security of the rest of hard-working and patriotic white America.)

Dobbs publishes their angry e-mail; he's their Howard Beale -- mad as hell and not going to take it -- only he doesn't wear a dirty raincoat and pass out on the floor at the end of his broadcast. Instead, he allows some lucky viewers to do the I'm-mad-as-hell bit in e-mail, pitching a fit in which they announce they've left the Democratic party to become independent. It seems a surefire way to get one's words on television for a moment.

"Remember, government is supposed to be 'for the people and by the people,' writes the angry Schuylkill County voter. "Not anymore. The popular vote of the American people should take precedence over the delegate voting. Corruption and greed has [sic] taken control. Think about it."

And so DD has.

Having been an obedient and law-abiding citizen in Schuylkill County for more years than many, places like it are a lost cause to the candidacy of Barack Obama. But it's not a problem which can be cured by sensitivity and outreach. The animosity and distrust due to race and class difference is great and carved into stone for most. And you'd have a better than even chance of guessing right if you wager the Democrats of Schuylkill County, such as they are, regularly vote for Republican presidential nominees when all is said and done.

Now as predictable as the rising sun, the Tuesday primaries served only to reinforce the class war. The codger and uneducated voting bloc, an ugly but accurate slur, stood up and smashed Obama in Kentucky.

In Oregon, a different tribe held sway.

"Oregon: Male vote went to Obama; Clinton won only working poor, 65+ vote" went the wire service headline.

"Barack Obama won a huge victory over Hillary Rodham Clinton in the Oregon primary, mostly with the support of men and younger voters ... But the Illinois senator also found plenty of votes among blue-collar workers who had been the staple of Clinton victories in other states, and among those who said that change was more important than experience in a candidate. Only the working poor making less than $30,000 a year and those over 65 supported Clinton."

See here.

It is said the white blue-collar class is an Obama problem. It appeared not to have been in Oregon, indicating the problem is one that exists in distinguishing between white tribes radically differentiated by geography, tastes and economic health.

Kentucky is poorer than Oregon. Kentucky is a coal-mining state. Most of the coal-mining states went for George W. Bush in the 2004 election. (Pennsylvania and Illinois were exceptions.)

In "American Theocracy," political historian Kevin Phillips discusses Republican voting blocs at length, this white class/tribe distinguished from Democrats by the influence of fundamentalist religion. Kentucky is described as a "traditionalist redoubt."

It's dry reading and while the analysis is a few years old, it doesn't spend time on the idea that blue-collar whites are a constituency Democrats must learn to win. (Technically, pursuing these voters now amounts to taking the political advice of Karl Rove, advertised now as a "Fox News Analyst," regularly invited to lecture the Obama campaign on how it's failing to reach real Americans, for the delight of viewers of like mind.)

On balance, Phillips' book indicates this is a particular constituency which can't be won because of many factors: its view of the work ethic and its belief in the lack of it among others, jobs, poor education, cultural traditions, values and hard-bitten judgmental religious beliefs. Phillips, a Republican, does not consider this to be a good development.

"Exit polls in Tuesday's Kentucky primary were the latest to point to [the blue-collar] problem," reported CNN. "The numbers suggest that Sen. Hillary Clinton's supporters are fiercely devoted to her."

"Nearly half of the state's Democratic voters said they'd either vote for Sen. John McCain, the presumptive Republican nominee, or not vote at all in November if Obama is on the ticket."

See here.

In other words, they would cut off their noses despite the cost to their faces.

However, if you were in Oregon, working white people went in the opposite direction. Ah yes, but white people who vote for Obama aren't real workers, not like the blue-collar proles of West Virginia, Pennsyltucky and Kentucky, retorts the received wisdom.

Experts differed on what it meant. Some political scholars in Kentucky couldn't imagine any Clinton voters going for McCain. If such people said so, it was all talk.

Another said some would vote for McCain but not enough to matter. All Obama had to do, among other things, was convince good American white workers that he wasn't a slick, Ivy League-educated lawyer. Blue-collar whites don't cotton to those types, it was said, leaving unasked the question, "Isn't Hillary Clinton the equivalent of a slick Ivy League-educated lawyer, too?"

DD prefers a simpler explanation, the one about the Reagan Democrat class. Ronald Reagan slummed successfully, convincing blue-collar whites he was one of them. It was a good trick.

In "Class: A Guide Through the American Class System," Paul Fussell describes Ronald Reagan and this fashion appeal, one which aligned him heart and soul with the class that now can't abide Barack Obama because he's elitist. And black.

"Ronald Reagan, of course, doesn't need to affect the establishment style, sensing that his low-brow God-fearing intellect-distrusting constituency regards it as an affront (which, of course, to them it is)," he writes.

Ronald Reagan's "style" -- Los Angeles or Orange County Wasp-Chutzpah, "registers that sense that if you stubbornly believe you're as good as educated people -- i.e., those eastern dudes, then you are."

Reagan, writes Fussell, was of the mind of the prole class Sun Belt. "He favors, of course, the two-button suit with maximum shoulder padding ... which makes him look, when he's dressed way up, like a prole setting off for church. Sometimes, for leisure activities ... he affects the cowboy look, which, especially when one is aged, appeals mightily to the Sun Belt seniles. One hates to even speculate about the polyester levels of his outfits."

Which brings us to Hillary Clinton and her appeal to the prole class. Could part of it be due to a successful fashion slum?

The low prole look for women, according to Fussell, is the pantsuit. (Yes, say it. You want to. Now go: "You misogynist bastard!")

The apotheosis, or nadir -- depending on your POV -- is a pantsuit in the color purple. "[The] pantsuit offends two principles that determine class in clothes: the color principle and the organic materials principle," maintains Fussell.

Polyester, wearing something that was never alive, marks the prole. Pastel-colored pantsuits, however, are classier than dark colors like purple, "the absolute bottom, the classic prole costume."

Before leaving today, DD evens the class fashion jibes by turning to a symbol of the white male blue-collar worker.

An important part of their uniform is the "prole cap," aka the baseball cap.

It is "made largely of plastic meshwork in primary colors ... with, in the rear, an open space crossed by a strap, for self-adjustment," comments Fussell. "Regardless of the precise style of the prole cap, it seems crucial that it be ugly ... To achieve even greater ugliness, the prole will sometimes wear his cap back to front ... President Reagan wore a prole cap while in performance once atop a tractor in Peoria. It looked natural."

Monday, May 19, 2008

CLASS WARS: Culturally-sanctioned Mockery

"Citizens joining together and taking action to address a need are the pulse of America ... But the real payoff is seeing our differences disappear as we find ourselves pursuing a common dream," wrote Tim Shriver on a WaPo blog today. The blog, named Religion from the Heart, delivered a sermon, exhibiting a sentiment which DD laughed at last week: The notion that we should all just come together around the campfire, do each other favors, sing songs and watch our differences be rinsed away in the pure milk of human kindness. It's crap, a myth not supported by anything DD has lived. See here.

Race, as well as major differences in beliefs, traditions, education, science, values and work now run deep through many American tribes. They've been built over decades. In DD's experience, there has never been a time where differences were eased or minimized, where everyone just got together and forgave the despised or scorned other in the row over.

The Obama-Clinton race has brought this out in the open. While Barack Obama's message is one of hope, of reaching out to others, it is a position he must espouse because it's the decent thing. But decency has no traction when the chips are down in this country. Opposition is the norm. There is plenty of bitterness and denunciation. These things have had many years to ferment. There's no sugar left, it's mostly vinegar.

We'll take you on a browse through recent vignettes of the irreversible class and culture wars, culled from the recent news.

First stop, Kathleen Parker (brought to notice by Glenn Greenwald), writing in two places, the Washington Post and the Jewish World Review.

For Jewish World, Barack Obama wasn't a pure American, according to Parker. See here.

Ordinary Americans, she wrote, "can spot a poser a mile off and they have a hound's nose for snootiness. They've got no truck with people who condescend nor tolerance for that down-the-nose glance from people who don't know the things they know."

"Some Americans do feel antipathy toward 'people who aren't like them,' but that antipathy isn't about racial or ethnic differences. It is not necessary to repair antipathy appropriately directed toward people who disregard the laws of the land and who dismiss the struggles that resulted in their creation ... Full-blooded Americans get this. Those who hope to lead the nation better get it soon."

Uppity. Conceited. Barack Obama and his followers equal not full-blooded Americans.

A few days later, in the Washington Post, Parker opined, "Well, at least [Obama and Edwards] didn't kiss."

"I was bracing myself for the lip lock." See here.

These oh-so-smart boys were sissies, too! And real Americans, like Parker, weren't going to have them or their ilk.

It took DD, and one imagines, many others right back to junior high when it was approved behavior for the regular good American kids to break my slide rule and glasses. The only thing that stops such behavior is when you administer a beating to someone in reprisal or put on so much muscle as a member of the wrestling team that others are terrified of you.

Writing for the Los Angeles Times, Meghan Daum wrote a laughably handwringing piece about how the low prole class has been unfairly stigmatized in America.

"But in addition to their dwindling demographic presence and diminished status, these people constantly battle another headwind: culturally sanctioned mockery," Daum wrote. "Unprotected by the political correctness that makes deriding other minorities unacceptable or at least uncool, poor whites are often regarded not as people but as mullet-sporting, mobile-home dwelling members of kitsch."

See here.

Keep in mind, it's not obvious Daum has spent even a little time among the mullet-sporters, being ragged on and hazed for not being part of the tribe possessing the local majority.

In any case, by today the Los Angeles newspaper had produced just the opposite, a verdict in the entertainment section that while Archie Bunkers were no longer on network TV, the blue-collar undereducated man of with calluses on his hands, practicer of backbreaking labor and toil, was the new hero on cable.

"The real narrative is what people do to earn money -- fishing, trucking, lumber, waste management ..." wrote Mary McNamara, a reporter who DD is sure neither fishes, trucks, chops down trees or hauls garbage. Times reporters earn in the mid-to-high five figures to write articles such as this one, championing the real workers of the nation, those ditched by Hollywood high rollers but not by cable.

The shows in question are "Ax Men," about chopping down big wood, "Dirty Jobs," about working in excrement, and "Ice Road Truckers." Left out, but also germane: the show about Orange County motorcycle shop mechanics who make the same custom big bike over and over, the show about the bounty-hunter in Hawaii, and "Futureweapons," about those who pursue the factory livelihoods of making cluster-bombs, machine guns and artillery shells.

"...[T]hese are not the salaried employees, not over-educated quip-slinging professionals. They are members of the working and middle class and they have all been but abandoned by the rest of the entertainment industry."

"The folks are nearly all men," McNamara writes at one point, "all rugged, real and competent, proof that Americans are still capable of living by their wits and the strength in their strong calloused hands."

Not like those pansies, Shark and House.

A constant note in this is the idea that toil which makes one dirty and scuffed is the only appropriate work for real Americans. Physical labor is next to God, making one noble. One sees this tripe 24/7 in the make-believe land of country music videos. You can laugh at it as fairy tales for a demographic fond of rolling around in its own mythology. The only thing missing is the war veteran coming home from Iraq and immediately going away to toil in the mine or on the farm. It's difficult to include because the class of real blue-collar patriotic Americans hasn't really chosen to fight in the war anymore than the rest of us. Although the class is represented, it's still only a small portion of its own -- driven more by the winds of circumstance and having no get-out-of-town career option other than a soldier's life.

Daum had admonished readers a few days earlier that the class was now branded as the wrong kind of white people. They had the misfortune of being those who "failed to meet the rigorous standards of Stuff White People Like," the latter being a website DD has never visited. They weren't up to the hare-brained criteria of us uppity types.

Stuff White People Like was said to be the favorite spot of "the privileged" -- a term which is used twice. The privileged are known by their tastes: National Public Radio and "indie music," apparently.

"To a white person, being a fan of a band before they get popular is one of the most important things they [sic] can do with their life," Daum writes, the quote being taken from Stuff White People Like.

"Yes, this club is still called white. but as time goes on, that whiteness becomes more conceptual than literal ... You don't have to be white to be white. You just need enough disposable income and the desire to buy the lifestyle accessories and adopt the points of view..."

One theorizes Daum would call Toby Keith the type of pop star the Clinton voters would like.

In "Please Stop Belittling Toby Keith," friend and colleague Chuck Eddy writes that Village Voice readers, perhaps many of whom fall into the demographic defined by Stuff White People Like, regard the country singer as "that doofus who did that song after 9/11 about how putting boots in asses is the American way."

"[Toby's] image is clearly his own fault: When he made the Statue of Liberty shake her fist in 2002's outrageously rousing 'Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue' (awesome karaoke song, btw), [he] defined himself despite himself, and the self-proclaimed conservative Democrat has been trying to live it down ever since."

See here.

But the big news last week -- the California Supreme Court's approval of gay marriage -- immediately provided a much bigger opportunity for outrage among the warring classes, one that will certainly have some influence on voters in the November election.

The day of the event Fox News tribe leader Bill O'Reilly declared that judges who thought they were smarter than everyone else had overturned the will of the people in California.

This was not precisely true.

In recent polling, approval for the right of gay people to marry has risen to only slightly less than those who oppose it in the state. Worse for O'Reilly's tribe, GOP-voting, patriotic and religious white Americans, was that six of the seven judges were Republican, including the chief justice.

"I think there are times when doing the right thing means not playing it safe," chief justice Ronald George told the Los Angeles Times over the weekend.

In contrast, the Times went out to balance the jubilation of gays with the dismay of someone who believed the decree was "at odds with God's plan."

Cathi Unruh of El Segundo believed "homosexuality is akin to sins such as adultery and stealing."

According to the newspaper, Unruh apparently believes being gay is a lifestyle choice -- an attitude that was chased out a most newspapers many years ago. She was also a home-schooler, contrasting "intelligent design with evolution, to expose [her children] to different ideas they would encounter in the world."

Science and the courts have ruled that intelligent design is just another term for creationism, a subject which has no place in teaching biology.

Forty years ago, in the high school of Pine Grove Area School District in Pennsylvania, no one would have gotten away with teaching creationism in a school, particularly under the rationalization of exposing children to different ideas.

Pine Grove Area was not free of the urge to indoctrinate a preferred type of religious point-of-view.

Through grade school in the Sixties, the school district took one period per week in every grade to ship the Protestants off to a class on scripture held offsite. The Catholics, of which DD was one, were left in the class room and told to put their heads down or do homework. The school district attempted to balance this by allowing the Catholics to walk up the hill to a private home for something similar, once a week. However, the Catholics -- of which there were few -- did not get the benefit of class being suspended. Class went on for the Protestants. Anything that was missed had to be made up.

I suspect this was illegal, even by conservative standards in the mid-to-late Sixties. In any case, it appeared to die out in the school district as the Seventies arrived.

However, it was another real instance of the traditions and religious values of the majority in the community being imposed for the benefit of that majority.

And the natural result of years of being deemed part of another tribe, not the right tribe, is a shared antipathy between the two, one not simply mended by a blandishment to join together in common service, to quit insulting the white class of hard-working, patriotic, religious, blue-collar, undereducated Americans with calluses on their hands, disgruntled over events during which it's been shown to them that others haven't believed the hooey about their many virtues for quite some time -- that they can be brushed off, too.



The New York Times published a story on Sunday about population growth in the old cities of Pennsylvania, Scranton and Pittsburgh. It's downward and has been for the last decade.

What do young people do in Scranton when and if they can?

Leave.

Obama Girl might visit but she no longer wishes to stay.


Is it wrong to engage in culturally sanctioned mockery against this guy? Not if you had to live alongside him for forty years.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

DEMOCRATIC CLASS WAR: White, male and uneducated, the alleged bedrock of the nation

Quotes and claims from the pages of the news over the last few days confirm the Obama/Clinton conflict is not only about race but also class.

While few care to admit it, class war is never very far from the surface in the US. Under the codeword "values" it is the major tactic in the playbook of the Republican party. Bereft of policy issues and aims which stand up to serious scrutiny or logic, using "values" to motivate new voters is the battle tactic and just another way of saying, "Start the class war."

"Referring to an Associated Press article, Sen. Clinton said that it 'found how Sen. Obama's support among working, hard-working Americans, white Americans, is weakening again. ...'" read one editorial from a daily newspaper.

"So only lazy white Americans support Sen. Obama, along with lazy blacks ... Her comment could have been the text of a campaign ad for Jesse Helms," it continued. See here.

In an article still taking the temperature of the white voters in Pennsylvania, the Washington Post delved into the nastiness Obama canvassers had encountered in the state's hinterland.

"Victoria Switzer, a retired social studies teacher, was on phone-bank duty one night during the Pennsylvania primary campaign," read the newspaper. "One night was all she could take: 'It wasn't pretty.' She made 60 calls to prospective voters in Susquehanna County, her home county, which is 98 percent white. The responses were dispiriting. One caller, Switzer remembers, said he couldn't possibly vote for Obama and concluded: 'Hang that darky from a tree!'"

"In a letter to the editor published in a local paper, Tunkhannock Borough Mayor Norm Ball explained his support of Hillary Clinton this way: 'Barack Hussein Obama and all of his talk will do nothing for our country. There is so much that people don't know about his upbringing in the Muslim world. His stepfather was a radical Muslim and the ranting of his minister against the white America, you can't convince me that some of that didn't rub off on him." See here.

The newspaper, in its adherence to old school journalistic process, felt it necessary to publish the standard misinformation. However, in the recent racial animosity and class war which has characterized the political race, readers will have noticed the poison is allowed to flow only one way -- at Barack Obama and, by extension, anyone who votes for him. No one is out canvassing white elitists for their opinion of Hillary Clinton. If someone has suggested that she be hung from a tree, DD has missed it.

On the Fox News Network, Bill O'Reilly is on the warpath.

In his show's case, those who watch and think he's always on the money -- part of Bill's large tribe, have been regularly told that anyone who has brought up the matter of race as a reason to vote nay in the contest is a despicable member of the left -- the very bad tribe. Naturally, it is not despicable to always show, as O'Reilly does, the fifteen-second snip of the black boogeyman, Jeremiah Wright, always dancing in the front of his church.

Setting aside Wright's ideas, already well hashed over, the other context, one delivered to the white American "Reagan Democrat" in Pennsyltucky or West Virginia, is the easily seen subtext. When WE go to church no one dances! That's just wrong! Our manner, our traditions, our values all tell us this to be so.

"Hillary Rodham Clinton bases what's left of her campaign on the message that [only the prole class is] the difference between victory and defeat, and that only she can keep [it in] the Democratic camp," wrote John Vinocur in the International Herald Tribune.

One of the things one must do is make sure you bow to Ronald Reagan, intones Vinocur, implying that the salt-of-the-earth class will only come to know you are one of them once you genuflect.

"Obama, still short of a consistent blue-collar strategy, already has the occasional nice thing to say about Ronald Reagan," he writes.

This white working class is a patriotic one, Vinocur continues, and it constitutes "a particular American vision."

So generous in spirit, it leaves one to conclude that which is left hanging and unsaid: If you're not in the prole class, the right one, you're insubstantial. You're not only unpatriotic, but you have no "particular American vision."

(Whether blue-collar uneducated Americans are actually more "patriotic" than everyone else is easily debated. With the military lowering its standards to accommodate more flunkouts and petty criminals in recruitment, it's fairly obvious no American tribe is rushing to show its devotion and obligation to Uncle Sam through a couple years of toil on the eastern front.)

"[Paul Begala,] a Clinton supporter and political consultant, put his finger on the issue when he said on CNN last week, 'We can't win with eggheads and African-Americans.'"

And there it is -- bald-faced class resentment, passed off as a wisdom from someone who shares nothing with the blue-collar working class claimed to be important to him. Paul Begala might just have well said, "Bookworms get lost" or "No one cares what the Four-Eye's think, they aren't real Americans."

"[Obama] thinks he's better than everyone else ... he don't impress me," said one of the proles, a woman in West Virginia, to the Los Angeles Times on Tuesday.

Uppity. Too big f'r yer britches. Conceited. Does it remind you of high school, all those times when the popular tribe painted you into a corner for their own satisfaction?

Gamely, Obama consented to have his picture taken playing pool in West Virginia. He lost the game. Did anyone think he was Pool Hall Richard? Obama also bowled and was lousy at that, just another sport one must endure to show one is an all right guy. The only thing not yet in the mainstream news coverage of the election contest is someone saying: "He throws like a girl."

Jose Ortega y Gasset, an author DD is not very familiar with, produces a wonderful quote in "The Revolt of the Masses:" "The characteristic of the hour is that the commonplace mind, knowing itself to be commonplace, has the assurance to proclaim the rights of the commonplace and to impose them wherever it will."

If you are reading this from Pennsyltucky or someplace similar, and you're part of the prole class that voted for Hill, a "Reagan Democrat," DD knows that went into your snoot sideways. It's because DD upped his standards long ago, now -- up yours.

Haw!

Go ahead, say it. DD knows you want to. "You think you're better than everyone else!"

There's a very thin line between disdain or contempt and outright hate between the divisions which make up various middle-class tribes. And often there are no lines at all. Needle someone hard enough in a tribe different from yours and see it erupt.

The race and class distinctions laid bare in the nomination process won't be spackled over in a big happy come-together once Hillary Clinton is ushered from the stage at spearpoint. There may be some repair but in the class war as practiced in America, it has never been enough for one side to succeed. Others must fail, to cite Gore Vidal.

In "Class: A Guide Through the American Class System," Paul Fussell writes that bitterness is often not very far from the surface. It has many reasons to always be close to breaking through or in the clear, not all of them coming from the prole's susceptibility to crazes, delusions, rip-off advertising and the myths concerning values or the supposed lack of them among Democrats.

"Anyone uncertain about class consciousness in this country should listen to a working-class father whose son was killed [in Vietnam]," Fussell writes, specifically addressing the S-2 deferment, one college students used to escape the draft. "Class" was published in 1984.

"I'm bitter," Fussell quotes the man as saying. "You bet your goddamn dollar I'm bitter. It's people like us who gave up our sons for our country. The business people, they run the country and make money from it. The college types, the professors they go to Washington and tell the government what to do ... But their sons, they don't end up in the swamps over there, in Vietnam. No sir."

This time, however, the prole class can't blame the educated or the left. No one can. With no draft, not only aren't there enough people to make a stink on TV, but the only parties to properly direct one's bitterness toward would be the Republicans who voted for war, or even Hillary Clinton, alleged fighter for the white working-class blue-collar patriotic American. To reward them accordingly could be seen as something to do with the explicit aim of being at the expense of THEM, rather than having something bad done to you and your tribe by the powers-that-be.

Returning to the race, one will have to sweat many more times in which Barack Obama goes into bars, pool halls and bowling alleys in attempts to reach voters repulsed by him. It won't work.

Fussell explains that attempting to sink in class never works credibly. "No matter how much effort you expend, if your language doesn't give you away, your grammar will, or your taste in clothes or cars or ideas," he writes. "The upper class person caught slumming is as worthy of the scorn of proles for not dropping his g's as the prole among the upper class is betrayed by revealing he has no idea how to eat an artichoke."

(Side note: The mainstream media always tries to short-circuit this Fussell rule with fairy tales and lies, portraying a selected presidential candidates as someone who could be, or perhaps is, in your class. From a historical standpoint, the most deadly result of this malfeasance has been George W. Bush vs. Al Gore. Gore was the annoying conceited brain you allegedly couldn't stand to be in a room with. GWB was the brush-clearing, aw-shucksing member of the good tribe.)

Besides, Fussell reasons, there's no need to slum. Most of us are sinking, anyway.

"Inflation, unemployment, a static economy" have set into stone conditions in which "the mass of Americans now find themselves" moving down. "There used to be room at the top," he concludes. Now there's plenty of room at the bottom, vicinities near which many of us will become acquainted with, sooner than later.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

DEMOCRAT CLASS WAR: Us versus them


Obama at brew pub in Bethlehem, PA. Relative absence of baseball caps and older white guys in frame indicated he would not do well, losing both Northampton and Lehigh counties by a good margin.

"[It is not] helpful to insult the groups that supported Mrs. Clinton, either by suggesting that racism was their only motivation or by minimizing their importance," wrote Paul Krugman the past week.

"After the Pennsylvania primary, David Axelrod, Mr. Obama’s campaign manager, airily dismissed concerns about working-class whites, saying that they have 'gone to the Republican nominee for many elections.' On Tuesday night, Donna Brazile, the Democratic strategist, declared that 'we don’t have to just rely on white blue-collar voters and Hispanics.' That sort of thing has to stop."

Actually, DD doesn't think it does. Furthermore, having lived in Pennsyltucky most of my adult life, I say: "Let's do it more!"

Let's have the class war out in the open. DD endured it in Pennsy for decades. If you were educated, you were an elitist. If you spoke well, you were worse than that -- an elitist and a pansy. You were someone to be ridiculed, ostracized and bullied.

Whatever work the educated person did was not real work, not like the toil of the blue and gray-collar class. If you were the offspring of a teacher in a place like Pine Grove, Schuylkill County, you were a "richie" even though the profession is solidly middle class. One or both of your parents had gone to college and now had three months off every summer while betters were breaking their backs making a real living. Those who went to college were rich and lazy. If you went to grad school you were a total douchebag, not to be tolerated among real folks.

And some of the same things are playing out for Barack Obama. It is not only about race but also about a white class war.

The Los Angeles Times sent a reporter to West Virginia, which is somewhat like Pennsy only demographically more destitute and poorly educated. The article published the most unpleasant and inflammatory quotes it could find from a handful of heevahavas, some of them allegedly the declining species known as the "Reagan Democrat."

These were ugly things to say, just like many of the utterances from the central counties of Pennsylvania a few weeks ago.

"Osama, Obama and Chelsea's Mama" -- [the] sign belongs to Eric Hardy, 38, a former Democrat who works at a woodworking plant. Now a die-hard Republican and president of the West Virginia Coon Hunters Assn., Hardy opposes any Democrat 'who wants to go after my guns ...' He suspects Obama for his 'Muslim name' ..."

"I'm not yet convinced that Barack Obama is more substance than fluff," Clyde M. See Jr., "a former Democratic speaker of the West Virginia House of Delegates and two-time gubernatorial candidate," told the Los Angeles newspaper.

"He's a fine speaker, mind you, but I'm still not sure he's got the right stuff to win the general election."

Go out to the piece and one reads more anonymous poison tongue about Obama being a terrorist and -- always -- a Muslim. The newspaper has to go out of its way to state the man's a Christian and include the qualifiers that bigotry and stupidity are commonplace among the locals. See here.

It's too late to hope we can all come together and sing songs of unity around the campfire. The America DD knows is divided into tribes, cliques and claques which have very little in common with each other and very little desire to live and work together. DD is used to it. Stratification and separation are the way of things in the good ol' USA. It's now your civic duty to find your tribe and fight against, or at least passively oppose, those who are not part of it. And it's important to get more of your tribe to the polls than the other tribe can muster.

So if the white American churchgoing blue-collar undereducated Americans are angry and blue, then -- eh -- what can ya do?

Author Paul Fussell wrote "Class: A Guide Through the American Status System" and while it is not entirely up to date for 2008, it is an entertaining, educating and supercilious book.

Fussell states repeatedly, often in a dryly humorous way, that class in America is "a touchy subject."

" I have experienced many times that awful truth of R. H. Tawney's perception, in his book 'Equality': 'The word class is fraught with unpleasing associations, so that to linger upon it is apt to be interpreted as the symptom of a perverted mind and a jaundiced spirit'."

"Especially in America," Fussell adds, "where the idea of class is notably embarrassing."

Fussell notes that your reaction to any discussion of class reveals much about which class you are actually in. If you blow your stack or become "very anxious," it "suggests you are middle class and nervous about slipping down a rung or two ... It is the middle class that is highly class sensitive."

Fussell argued that his research found nine classes. "Top out-of-sight, upper and upper-middle" in a top tier. "Middle, high prole, mid-prole and low prole" in a middle slot. And "destitute" and "bottom-out-of-sight" on the low end.

Money, however, is not the only defining distinction in the American classes. Values, tastes, and traditions are among many things which separate us. These are hard distinctions -- engraved during upbringing -- and they persist from birth to death, being generally inescapable, Fussell concludes.

"Class," which was published in 1983, is not always still on the money.

"Showing off used to be the main satisfaction of being very rich in America," he writes. "Now the rich must skulk and hide. It's a pity."

Heh-heh. Time and progress has changed some things.

Fussell describes a portion of the middle-class, actually the lower middle-class, and it fits those in Pennsyltucky who did not vote for Obama and, in many cases, appeared to be in a snit over being dissed as bitter. This, one sees, is the same as getting upset over discussions of class.

"Our former lower middle-class [Fussell calls them high proles] ... are identifiable as people things are done to," he writes. "They are in bondage -- to monetary policy, rip-off advertising, crazes and delusions, mass low culture, fast foods, consumer shlock."

"If you're a high prole, you do the things a commercial society has decreed you're supposed to do."

And if you do not "embrace" the doing of such things, Fussell notes, you are branded as an "elitist."

One suggests "Class" as good reading for the thick-skinned. This normally excludes many, many Americans and seems to suggest why "Class" never found its way onto bestseller lists. Everyone is gored in it, equally.


High prole Pennsyltucky Clinton voter. Bitter over being described as part of a now bitter class.